You have to hike up a mountain for a full day to get to this view.
Hiking is superb in the Dolomites. Why don’t more people take a detour north from Venice to enjoy these craggy mountains? They’re now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (if you need validation that the Dolomites are worth a visit).
We planned a trip with our cousins, Susie and Tom, and, literally and figuratively, the high point of the trip was a three day circuit hike not far from Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. We four piled onto a bus which dropped us off at the trailhead.
The hike was uphill all day. What saved us was that the hike was split in half. The first leg took us up to Cinque Torri, unique rock formations in a large grassy area. If we hadn’t been on a hike, we could have taken a chair lift from the road up to Cinque Torri. At the top of the lift a cafe and terrace with a view await you. Nearby stands a restored bunker from World War I where Italian and Austrian troops shelled each other.
After a pleasant lunch on the terrace and some exploring, we felt ready to face the steep hike up to Rifugio Nuvolau. The hot sun and the reflective light colored rock glared brightly at us. The mountain was steep enough that, when we looked up, we couldn’t judge just how far we had to go. We’d reach what we thought was the top only to see another “top” above us. Would we never get there? Then, with another step, it happened! Rifugio Nuvolau appeared, perched right on top of the mountain!
Rifugios are mountain huttes providing food and lodging for hikers. We’d never seen one in such a spectacular setting, just enough room for a terrace or walk way on the sides and then just thin air. Are you curious what it was like to stay there? The exterior gave us a wonderful 360 degree view of mountains and valleys. The cozy common area came with a stove, lots of books, pine furniture and decoration common to this region.
You find the bedrooms upstairs. We four shared one room with two bunk beds. It was the smallest room possible for two beds to fit into. Space is truly at a premium in a mountain hutte. A pillow and blanket are placed on the beds. We were prepared, and each of us carried a silk “sleep sack.” Bathrooms? Yes. Showers? No. Pit toilets were outside and under the main level. However, there was one WC with a toilet. That was all we needed! The location of the facilities was the topic of extended conversation resulting in flashlights at the ready for the possibility of a night trip outside. We who did not need to get up at night understand that the trip outside offered a night sky free of light pollution and full brilliant stars — ample compensation for the trip outside to the toilet, just don’t sleepwalk over the edge.
We were on a mountaintop in a hutte and weren’t expecting haute cuisine. Even with lowered expectations, dinner was a disappointment. After all, we were in Italy! The food should never be this mediocre. Resolution: Leave early in the morning and hike down to another hutte, Rifugio Averau, famous for its wonderful food and the perfect place for a good breakfast.To be continued….